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Anyway, Anyways, or Any Way—What’s the Difference?

Updated on January 14, 2021Grammar

Is there a difference between anyway and any way? What about anyways?

When to use anyway

Anyway means “nonetheless” or “regardless”:

Though my mother forbade me, I ate the chocolate chip cookie anyway .

It can also be used to signal the continuation of an interrupted story:

Anyway , I was telling you about the diet I am starting on Monday.

Sometimes anyway can mean “in any case”:

Paris is expensive, but many people would like to vacation there, anyway .

Anyway is acceptable in formal writing.

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When to use any way

When written as two words, any way can be replaced by “in any manner” or by “by any means”:

To get students to read, teachers often bribe them any way they can.

To get students to read, teachers often bribe them in any manner they can.

To get students to read, teachers often bribe them by any means they can.

All of these adverbs are acceptable in formal writing. The Random House Dictionary includes a usage note about the adverb anyway spelled as one or two words. If it’s two words, it means “in any manner.” For example, I can live any way I want to. You should be able to substitute “in the” for “any” in a two-word phrase. I can live in the way I want to. If you can’t make the switch, you need to use anyway as a single word.

Is anyways a word?

That settled, let’s go on to anyways. It means the same thing as anyway If you search for it in a dictionary, you will likely find it. Next to the entry, though, you will see a designation of nonstandard, colloquial, or archaic. Merriam-Webster identifies anyways as an archaic corruption of anywise, an expression meaning “in any way whatsoever.” In Old and Middle English, it was quite common to end adverbs in -s. We still have always and unawares. British English retains the -s in towards. So anyways isn’t too farfetched.

Still, anyways is generally accepted only in colloquial speech or informal writing. It is synonymous with anyway, or it can mean “to any degree at all.” In a 2009 New York Times article, journalist Clyde Haberman used anyways. He also used expressions such as “come on,” “no ways,” and “Go ahead, make my day.” It’s apparent that his intent was to sound informal.

I never did understand numbers very well. Anyways , I’ve decided to move from financing into tech support.

If you want to avoid debate or write in a formal tone, use the standard anyway. But if you don’t mind sounding informal, or if you are aiming for a down-to-earth tone like Clyde Haberman’s, it’s okay to use anyways. It is a word—a nonstandard, colloquial, informal word—that some people won’t like to see. You can’t please everyone all the time anyways, can you?

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